Worldcoin scanned eyeballs in exchange for online identity verification and “free” cryptocurrency. / Photo: Reuters

Cryptocurrency project Worldcoin has denied mining data on Kenyans while signing up new users in the East African country last month.

Worldcoin, founded by OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, requires users to give their iris scans in exchange for a digital ID, and in some countries including Kenya users also got free crypto tokens worth $49.

Kenya suspended the local activities of Worldcoin until relevant public agencies had certified the absence of risks to Kenyans.

But while appearing before Kenyan lawmakers on Wednesday, co-founder and CEO Alex Blania denied allegations that they were out to mine data.

Health hazard

He said the scanning of eyeballs was meant to authenticate that one was human and ensure account security.

Blania said it was not possible for the Worldcoin orb - used to do the scanning - to cause any health hazard.

"The orb is produced and certified by one of the strictest certification agency in Germany," he was quoted as saying by local news outlets.

The lawmakers are members of a parliamentary committee investigating the operations of the firm in Kenya following claims of health hazards.

Blania told the committee that his firm chose Kenya because of it reputation as the Silicon Savannah of Africa, a popular reference to the country's developed tech scene.

Consumer inducement

Hundreds of thousands of Kenyans had lined to have their eyeballs scanned in exchange of digital coins by the time the government halted the registration.

The Communications Authority of Kenya and the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner said Worldcoin's obtaining of consumer consent in return for a monetary award bordered on inducement.

Earlier this week, some Kenyans who had their eyeballs scanned told the parliamentary committee that they were experiencing eye problems and had sought medical attention.

TRT Afrika